El 18 is located on the pass that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura (Colombia's only Pacific Ocean port), at approximately 1,800 meters in elevation. The pass is called El 18 because it is 18 kilometers from downtown Cali, and it is our access into the San Antonio Forest. The forest is classified as a sub-Andean cloud forest, and is characterized by low-lying fogs and mists that are formed when moisture-laden air is blown in from the Pacific. Birding in the forest is done along small gravel roads that pass through fragments of cloud forest with good mixed flock activity. The area is regarded as one of the best places to observe tanagers, a true tanager paradise. Possibilities include Purplish-mantled, Golden, Blue-capped, White-lined, Scrub, Fawn-breasted, Summer, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped Tanagers, as well as Ashthroated Bush-Tanagers and Blue-winged Mountain-tanager. Our target endemic species for this area are the awe-inspiring endemic Multicolored Tanager and Flame-rumped Tanager.
Other birds we might see in this area include, Scarlet-fronted parakeet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Streak-capped Treehunter, Scaled Fruiteater, Green and Black Fruiteater, Yellow-headed Manakin, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Black-billed Peppershrike, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Golden-headed Quetzal, Montane woodcreeper, Redfaced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops and Narino Tapaculo. It will be easy to see the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher, and a delight to listen to the Andean Solitaire. Along one of the roads, we will visit Esdrujal, a local peasant who maintains feeders and attracts an impressive show of hummingbirds. The following species have been observed at the feeders. Purple-throated Woodstar, Blue-headed Saphire, Booted Raquetail, Brown Violetear, Green Violetear, Fawn-Breasated Brilliant, Greenish Puffleg, Speckled Hummingbird, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, White-necked Jacobin, and Long-billed Starthroat. The San Antonio Forest has over 200 documented species, and is one of the hottest birding destinations in Colombia.
Nearby we will search the Felidia River for the endemic Crested Ant-tanager, Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. At 5 pm we will visit an active Andean-cock-of-the-rock lek for some closeup views of this magnificent bird.
Sadly, forest fragmentation and habitat loss have made Colombian cloud forests one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. A fundamental step in conservation is knowledge of the biological resources in the area, and second to that, especially in the Colombian cloud forest, is community involvement in protecting resources. Colombia Birdwatch and Rioja Turismo have partnered up with Mapalina, a non-profit organizations that trains local youths to become birding guides and in turn realize the potentials of protecting the cloud forest they live in. We are very excited about this partnership because this region of Colombia holds a special place in our hearts. Thus, it is our top priority to promote conservation, environmental education, and responsible ecotourism that benefits the local communities and habitats of the area.